Doctors in the House: SAE Auckland working to fight industry sexism from within


21 May 2019




Doctors in the House: SAE Auckland working to fight industry sexism from within

21 May 2019

While the audio, music and screen industries are historically male-dominated, SAE Creative Media Institute (SAE) is leading the charge to turn this trend on its head.

SAE Auckland offers tertiary education programmes that provide pathways to careers in the audio, music and screen production sectors. Over the years, this world leading institution has graduated a number of female students who have gone on to carve out successful careers in these areas. However, the ratio is still low. Through the appointment of two further doctorate-level women to the SAE teaching staff in 2018 – bringing the total to four female staff with PhDs on campus – SAE Auckland is actively spearheading a campus-wide strategy to increase the presence of female staff and students.

As the head of SAE Auckland, Campus Director Dr Suzette Major is leading by example. Having appointed numerous women to key teaching and support roles at the campus, she believes  industry-wide change happen by training more women in audio, music and screen production.

“We’re working really hard to ensure that we are supporting women on campus and attracting more female students to SAE Auckland,” said Dr Major. “It’s a conscious strategy; we need to demonstrate to women in New Zealand that these creative and technical pathways are a viable option for them.”

Between 2017 and 2018, Dr Major appointed Dr Maddy Parkins-Craig; Dr Kahra Scott-James, and Dr Julia Reynolds to academic roles on campus. All three women hold globally recognised qualifications and boast extensive portfolios of creative and technical work. 

“I’m so proud to have such a diverse range of talented women on staff,” Dr Major said.

“The presence of women such as these notable kaiako / teachers at SAE Auckland points to a shift not in the face of creative and technical education, but in addressing the systemic biases inherent in both the music and film worlds. These women are demonstrating exactly what is possible for women in Aotearoa New Zealand’s creative sector,” she said.


Dr Suzette Major

With a PhD in arts marketing, Dr Major also has a long-held passion for the creative industries and has been a key figure in arts education for more than 25 years. Far from her musical roots singing in a punk band in the 1990s, Dr Major has held a range of academic positions with Waikato University, Victoria University and WINTEC in New Zealand, as well as Deakin University in Australia. 

Prior to joining SAE in 2016, she was the general manager of MAINZ and headed ideaschool at the Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT) in Hawkes Bay. Having published widely on progressively subjects, Dr Major’s research and teaching interests are centred on the creative industries, arts marketing and New Zealand Film. As a manager, an educator and businesswomen, she is forward-thinking – and considers education and research as key to  helping students further their creative pursuits.

“It’s no secret that these industries can be harder for women and other minorities,” said Dr Major. “We are choosing to lead by example.”

Through developing skills offering genuine career paths for women in the realms of screen, music and audio production, SAE Auckland isultimately seeking to change the face of the creative industries.

Support structures are incorporated into programmes to emphasise the validity of women, genderqueer and LGBTQIA+ students on campus. Since 2016, SAE has hosted annual women-only events on campus including a hands-on audio workshop ChicMix, and the film-making equivalent, ChicFlix. These events have proved hugely popular.

“There is a genuine demand to make space for women,” said Dr Major.

Dr Maddy Parkins-Craig

Head of Music Production Dr Maddy Parkins-Craig has a Doctor of Musical Arts degree, specialising in Studio Production, awarded by the University of Otago in 2017. With an impressive portfolio working in the studio, performing and presenting academic papers, Dr Parkins-Craig has worked with the likes of The Chills, Dunedin Symphony Orchestra and Graeme Downes.

Across a variety of projects, she has chaired all elements of making popular music including composition, arrangement, engineering, production, performance, project management and live production. An artist in her own right, Parkins-Craig consistently releases music under the moniker Devine.

Before joining the SAE Auckland team in 2018 Dr Parkins-Craig was Programme Manager at the Southern Institute of Technology School of Music, where she was involved not just in management but academic development.

Dr Parkins-Craig has presented papers at the University of Otago Department of Music & Theatre Studies Research Symposium (2014), and the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (ANZ) ‘Into The Mix’, at Otago University (2014). Her research is focused on differing approaches to contemporary studio production, a wealth of research that Parkins-Craig brings to her leadership role at SAE Auckland.


Dr Kahra Scott-James

Inter-disciplinary whizz Dr Kahra Scott-James has worked in media, performing arts and entertainment industries for the past 30 years. With credits including sound editing, design, mixing and music composition across an impressive variety of platforms, Dr Scott-James’ work has screened in a number of international festivals, winning awards in Denmark, Singapore, Korea, NZ, Canada, USA, and Germany.

Recent awards include the Best Sound Design at The Artists Forum Festival of the Moving Image 2018 (New York) for her work on the short film Quiver (2018), and a nomination for Best Musical Score at the 2018 Idyllwild International Festival Of Cinema, (USA).

Another short, Trap, won the Animation Award at the 2018 Liverpool International Film Festival (UK), a Global Shorts Award for Excellence 2018, and an Honourable Mention at the 2018 Los Angeles Animation Festival (USA). Web series Ao-terror-oa, placed in the finals of the 2018 Web Series World Cup in Brazil.

Dr Scott-James has clocked up a massive portfolio of professional experience. Her past work includes creating soundtracks for 3D interactive movie creators Brilliant Digital Entertainment (USA/Australia – Warner Brothers/DC Comics), technical/teaching support (audio, video, film), content producing and managing a professional audio post-production studio.

Dr Scott-James is also a published author, her book Sound Design for Moving Image: From Concept to Realization released by Bloomsbury in the UK in 2018. She holds a PhD from Victoria University, Melbourne.


Dr Julia Reynolds

Dr Julia Reynolds joined SAE Auckland in 2017. She has worked as a director, editor, art director and scriptwriter across television, music videos, TV commercials, funded short films, animations, international web content, interactive technologies and virtual reality.

With a PhD in Art and Design from AUT, Dr Reynolds is an accomplished academic. Her research includes both written and creative work, with a focus on process-driven, non-linear filmmaking. Her research explores community, DIY filmmaking, process, empowerment and the environment, through a philosophical lens.

Having shown her work at film festivals and galleries worldwide, Reynolds’ expressive, exploratory work has earned accolades at The Singapore International Film Festival, Picture This Festival in Canada, Trail Dance Film Festival (US), Salento International Film Festival (Italy), Tacoma Film Festival (US), Chicks with Flicks (US) and more.

Reynolds’ first feature film – science-fiction epic Shepherd – premiered in early 2018 at the Hamilton Gardens Festival. The dystopian science fiction film – which features a female protagonist – has won critical acclaim, with Director of Photography Joe Hitchcock taking out the Bronze Award in the 2018 New Zealand Cinematography Society Awards. After screening at the 2019 Arohanui Film Festival, Shepherd continues to show in small cinemas nationwide.

She has presented papers at AUT Postgraduate Symposium (2015), Waikato Museum (2013) and the Spark International Festival of Music, Media, Arts and Design (2011). Bringing vast experience to her role as a lecturer at SAE Auckland, Dr Reynolds is a key member of the academic team. Prior to her appointment she taught studio and video production courses at the University of Waikato and WINTEC Media Arts School in the Moving Image department.


In the most recent NZQA External Evaluation and Review (EER) SAE received the highest possible rating as a high performing, high-quality tertiary provider. All teaching staff at SAE now either hold or are working towards a Q+1 academic standing.